Measure & Stir

A Craft Cocktail Blog for the Home Bartender that Focuses on Original Creations Drawn from Culinary Inspiration.


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Kenyan Ghost: Rum, Coffee, Orange, Orgeat

Another drink from last week’s MxMo tiki party, and courtesy of Kaiser Penguin’s archives. (Cached version in case his certificates are screwy). This is a very instructive tiki drink; it contains two lessons for us to learn. The first is a lesson about the construction of tiki drinks. The Kenyan Ghost contains a scant quarter ounce of coffee syrup or liqueur, totalling 6.6% of the drink. This flavor is quite subtle against the the canvas of rum, orange juice, orgeat, and bitters, and yet it not only stands on its own, but pervades the entire drink. If you were to forget the name, you might call it “that coffee-flavored tiki drink”.

And why is that? It’s because all of the other ingredients are tiki standards. You can mix rum and tropical fruit and citrus and spices til your arms fall off, and it will probably be awesome, and it will all sort of start to converge and taste like tiki. That’s the palette; as long as you stay in the palette, you get tiki. If you want to bend it, if you want to make something that tastes like an X-flavored tiki drink (for some value of X), you have to first make a tiki drink as a base, and then add that one flavor modifier. I haven’t developed any really bullet-proof tiki templates yet, but if you

  1. blend a couple of rums (Maybe one with hogo, maybe one that’s particularly aged)
  2. add the juice of a citrus fruit (lime, grapefruit, orange — rarely lemon)
  3. and the juice or a syrup from a tropical fruit (pineapple, passion, mango, guava, coconut, grenadine)
  4. add something either spicy or nutty (orgeat, allspice dram, angostura, cinnamon or clove syrup)

Shake it and pour it over crushed ice, you’ll get something in the right range. Proportions are left as an exercise for the reader, though you want about half of the drink to be rum, and you generally want an ounce or two of a fresh tropical juice, and about a total of 1 – 1.25 oz of sweeteners (liqueurs + syrups). Of course, when you’re creating a drink, always trust your palate and your nose. Throw some coffee or an herbal liqueur or some other oddball ingredient, and you suddenly have “that green chartreuse tiki drink” or what have you.

OK! That’s lesson one. A single out-of-palette ingredient, in this case, coffee syrup, determine the character of the entire drink. Lesson two will be revealed after the break.

Kenyan Ghost
1oz Pusser’s rum (Matusalem Clasico 10)
1oz Zaya rum (Zacapa 23. Close enough)
1oz Orange Juice
1/4oz Coffee Syrup (or 1/4oz coffee liqueur)
1/4oz Orgeat Syrup
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1/2oz Float of Blackstrap rum (Kraken)
orange slice and coffee beans, for garnish
Shake with ice and strain into a collins glass filled with ice. Float the blackstrap. Place the orange slice on top and arrange the coffee beans just so. Stick your straw through the hole in the middle of the orange and enjoy! (There’s more ice in the glass than it looks like)

Lesson two is the importance of the garnish! In the Kaiser’s preparation, he balances some coffee beans precariously upon an orange slice. When I served this drink to my friends, I actually followed his example, but with one small modification. I made small incisions in the orange wheel, and inserted the beans into the incisions. This allowed them to stay ensconced in the garnish without the risk of losing them.

You might ask yourself, how does this drink illustrate the importance of the garnish? For the version in the picture, I used a half-opened lily instead of an orange wheel with coffee, and the result was that the drink tasted flat and muddy. The smell of the coffee beans to accompany the sip drew out the flavor of the coffee in the drink, and made the drink distinctive.

Incidentally, if you want to save the lily garnish from mediocrity, all you have to do is drop a few coffee beans down into the flower.


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Dirt and Diesel

Today I would like to present one of my all-time favorite cocktails, the Dirt and Diesel. This drink is reminiscent of the much more traditional Corn N’ Oil, a potion of blackstrap rum and falernum, a tiki ingredient that I promise I will make one of these days. The Dirt and Diesel was invented by a bartender at one of my favorite Seattle bars, Tavern Law, and it truly does have an industrial sort of flavor from Cynar and Fernet Branca.

Dirt and Diesel
(by Cale Green, Tavern Law and Needle & Thread, Seattle)

2 oz Cruzan Black Strap Rum (Kraken)
.5 oz Fernet-Branca
.5 oz Demerara sugar syrup
.25 oz Cynar
.25 oz lime juice

Shake over ice and double-strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.

To be honest, the Cynar is not very prominent in this drink, hiding as it is behind double its volume of Fernet Branca, but it is there if you look for it. When I first tasted this drink at the bar, I went home that same night and tried to replicate it out of my own head. I came pretty close, but I mixed up the proportions of the half ounce and quarter ounce ingredients. It looked like this:

Poorly-Recreated Dirt and Diesel

1.5 oz Black Strap Rum (Kraken)
.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz Cynar
.25 oz Fernet Branca
.25 oz Demerara sugar syrup

My version was too juicy, and not as balanced, so don’t make it, except switching the Fernet and Cynar is a fun variation. As for the real version of the drink, it is one of my all-time favorite mixed drinks, and an excellent way to enjoy that queen of spirits, Fernet Branca. If you do not have Fernet Branca in your home bar, what are you doing, son?

Also, a word on Demerara sugar syrup; Demerara sugar, or turbinado sugar, or “sugar in the raw”, for those of us who are ready, is not as sweet by volume as more refined sugars, and must be made in a ratio of 2:1 sugar:water in order to be adequately sweet. If you don’t have any Demerara sugar, or you are very lazy, I won’t be offended if you make brown sugar syrup instead, and probably no one will really know, but you’ll know, and that should be enough to move your conscience.

As with the Whiskey Fix, photo credit goes to my friends Michael Schmid, John Sim, and Matt Barraro.